Deterrent Deterrent

Paul suggests aloud
to no one in particular
society charge suicides
with murder
for killing themselves
and place them on trial
in absentia.

With such a definition
he counts six murderers
he associated with
over the past decade
and wonders
if he should be arrested
as an accessory.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cartwheel Landing Butt-dial

Lori falls apart in the privacy of her own home.
She reassembles herself before going out.
Sometimes a piece or two gets kicked under the sofa.

She dislikes the word Bamboozled
because in her mind it ties all her losses and failures
to the drinks she likes to imbibe.

Lori drops a quarter in the juke box
only to learn the juke box requires three more
before it plays a song by Blue Oyster Cult.

She spies a boy wearing a Grim Reaper t-shirt
with the words Got Death printed
on the curved blade of the upheld scythe.

Lori wonders if the boy is the grim reaper in disguise
with appointments to keep in the pub
or if he was too underdressed to be allowed entrance to the afterlife.

From her barstool perch, she watches the boy in reverse
in the barroom mirror with the notion of a one night stand
but notices his commitment to the thinnest girls.

Lori right swipes through social media
in search of girls entering how much Friday night devalued them
though most of those entries are not made until Saturday.

She copies and pastes the response
You are worth more than you think
anonymously, a thousand times before last call.

Lori leaves while she can navigate the sinkholes
as her tequila tunnel vision only sees the street lamps
that light the way home.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Addition by Subtraction

Sitting in a puddle
of what leaked from his brokenness
Paul felt good to hurt.

The hurt felt more honest
than anything he said over the last few days
and felt like a cloth cleaning a slate.

The slate fiercely held on to
commas, periods, semicolons
and an ellipsis that lead to the next sentence.

The next sentence was from a dream
where Paul was a number two pencil
whose eraser refused to remove past mistakes.

He judged his mistakes to be much larger
than they actually were.
He lacked perspective.

He tried to change his perspective
about his manliness.
The change included the sort of pill

his equilibrium required each day
to make it through interactions
with the remainder of humanity.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cup of Coffee

Fear me. I know we are all connected
and how to feel your weight.

The last time you tasted chocolate
you were an older child in Phoenix.

If only the miniature woman
played the grand piano

to liven up the doll house
with some ragtime.

It is okay that you liked to play with dolls
and preferred their lack of genitalia.

I know high school was murder on you
as parents forced you to strip away yourself

so you would fit their norms
even as a they embraced glam-rock and Bowie.

I am glad I met you here on the dock
before you joined the fishes

confident some oceanic voodoo
would give you space to breath.

Trust me. I believe I am the first person
who ever took the time to listen

to the unimaginable wringing
in your hands and ears.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Last Conversation

Years ago, Margo and I met
by the only window in the psych ward
and dreamed of eating Kung Pao chicken
in a little joint with red and white
checked tablecloths
that you normally find in Italian restaurants.

That same day in Milwaukee
Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested by police.

Margo told me she always wanted to be a writer
but her poor penmanship stopped her
from freeing into the world
all her personalities.

I promised when we got out
to purchase dozens of paper tablets
a fountain pen and a box of ink cartridges
so she could write.
I guaranteed her that her penmanship
would improve with all the pages.

She turned to me tears in eyes
and stated she lost who she was a moment ago.
We searched all night but Margo was not
on the ward anymore.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Distant Stare From a Park Bench

It is easy to get lost.
People go missing inside themselves all the time.

They keep moving down mental corridors
even after they have run out of mental bread crumbs.

They walk past memories of Disney animation
and parable stained glass windows cracked slightly open.

They read snippets of DNA sequences
exposed on organ walls.

They bump into bones
and bounce like pinballs in new directions.

Mostly they return in a few seconds or minutes.
But not always. Not always.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Life Line

Paul looks at his hands
and feels they are the wrong hands.

Someone else’s hands he found
like lost gloves on the roadside.

These hands have more knowledge of natural rope
and how to bulldog a steer then tie it up.

They have aches where he has never ached
and two fingers at unnatural angles.

Even though these hands feel like someone else’s hands
they accept Paul’s blood pumped by his heart.

Their skin is dry all over and cracked in places
with calluses he does not remember earning.

They do not know how to grip a baseball
to throw a knuckle curve.

These hands instantly ball into a fist
every time they hear the word Nigger

ready to do violence to whoever spoke so foolishly—
in a darkened alley or out in the open if necessary.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

post script

Happy New Year. My wish for you is that you have the persistence to turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality. May you see the wonder of this world daily.

Turning Back

Lori grabbed Paul’s arm.
She did not pull him in any direction.

Her hold reminded him
to stop at the edge of any abyss.

Lori gently held him
knowing he enjoyed transforming into a dolphin.

Not all tides were for swimming.
Not all seas played by the same rules.

After a long while, Paul
inched closer to Lori until breath touched cheek.

They embraced and kissed.
Time passed gently.

They formed a new home
safe from squalls.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Parsed Conspiracy

Quiet is kept.

The safe it is kept in
requires five tuns of the dial.

The man who knows the combination
knows his wife is sleeping
with his best friend.

He believes his best friend is after
the five numbers
and not his wife’s affection.

He doubts his wife knows the five numbers
but doubt cuts both ways—
what if she does.

The man knows his best friend
has never gotten him drunk
or recklessly waved guns around.

The quiet he values so much
he now rarely takes out of the safe.

His turbulent mind suffers.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Looking Back

I never became the boy in the photo
mother kept on the mantle.

I never developed that smile
or wore that haircut.

It is always summer in that photo
even in black and white.

I remember the tiny guillotine
of being called his name

and how it shaved slivers off me
onto the floor for to be swept away.

I loved and hated him in his absence—
in the perfection of vivid memories.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney